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FArming Tools for external nutrient Inputs and water MAnagement

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FATIMA (FArming Tools for external nutrient Inputs and water MAnagement)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

FATIMA addresses effective and efficient monitoring and management of agricultural resources to achieve optimum crop yield and quality in a sustainable environment. It covers both ends of the scale relevant for food production, viz., precision farming and the perspective of a sustainable agriculture in the context of integrated agri-environment management. It has developed innovative and new farm capacities that help the intensive farm sector optimize their external input (nutrients, water) management and use, with the vision of bridging sustainable crop production with fair economic competitiveness.

Our comprehensive strategy covers five interconnected levels: a modular technology package (based on the integration of Earth observation and wireless sensor networks into a webGIS), a field work package (exploring options of improving soil and input management), a toolset for multi-actor participatory processes, an integrated multi-scale socio-economic analysis framework, and an umbrella policy analysis set based on indicator approach.

FATIMA addresses and works with user communities (farmers, managers, decision makers in the farm and agribusiness sector) at scales ranging from farm, over irrigation scheme or aquifer, to river-basins. It provides them with maps of predicted fertilizer and water requirements (to feed into precision farming machinery), crop water consumption and a range of further products for sustainable cropping management supported with innovative water-energy footprint frameworks. All information is being integrated in leading-edge participatory spatial online decision-support systems. The innovative FATIMA service concept considers the economic, environmental, technical, social, and political dimensions in an integrated way.

FATIMA has been implemented and demonstrated in seven pilot areas representative of key European intensive crop production systems in Spain, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Austria, France, Turkey.
The multi-actor stakeholder community has been at the heart of FATIMA. It is with them and for them that methodology, systems, services, tools, products, and frameworks have been developed and implemented throughout the project. A multi-stakeholder platform directory is available. User alliances and networks maintain their importance after the end of the project, as they are one of the key foundations for sustainable implementation of the FATIMA services after the project end.

FATIMA Services, tools and products are technically mature, innovative, and well-positioned in a rapidly expanding market. The core services include crop monitoring, management zoning, VR (variable rate) fertilization scheduling (pre-season & in-season) and irrigation scheduling (crop water requirement prediction one week ahead).

A set of business cases has been developed, responding to the requirements of local and regional users on the ground (e.g. farmers, farmers’ associations, farm consultants, extension services).

Farm-level Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a complementary tool that helps farmers to decide which technology to adopt or service to buy. It is available as a calculation sheet (“CBA calculator”). It has the twofold function of assessing farm profitability on one hand and economic feasibility of a FATIMA service on the other hand.

FATIMA has produced a wide range of tools, from webGIS platforms to calculators (for nutrients, yield, irrigation, WEF, CBA); a comprehensive EO methodology package; models; a high-resolution variable rate technology (VRT) scanner-spreader; several adapted VRT fertilizer spreaders; Wireless sensor networks (WSN); to thematic frameworks.

During the three project years, FATIMA has generated comprehensive databases of biogeophysical and socioeconomic data.

In the long term, changes in agricultural practices (crop rotation, cover crops) and transformation to more sustainable production systems (conservation agriculture, organic agriculture) are also indicated. In FATIMA, we have put this in the framework of agroecology and developed a transition roadmap, based on scenario assessment combined with multi-annual field work.

An important part of the comprehensive FATIMA strategy has been an in-depth socio-economic assessment using Multi-criteria analysis (MCA) and Choice experiments (CE), as well as cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and water-energy-food (WEF) analysis.

Policy aspects of both short-term and long-term strategies have been analyzed and pilot cases documented, leading to a set of policy recommendations.
FATIMA introduces new technologies as tools and services to assist in farm nutrient and irrigation water management, offering the information to a wide range of stakeholders at their required space-time resolution in non-academic, non-technical, easy-to-use and intuitive form that encourages participation.

FATIMA provides a synergy of mutually supportive innovative farm management solutions (based on new technology and/or crop management practices and/or cropping systems) and innovative policy frameworks, which have been shown to help farmers increase nutrient and water efficiency and improve soil quality while increasing farm profitability and reducing environmental impact. Applied on a large scale (for which our broad representative sample of demonstration cases in 7 countries, with all main EU crops, will be the basis), they provide the tools and roadmap for the intensive farm sector to reorient itself and achieve the necessary paradigm shift towards a truly sustainable agriculture.
Working directly with key users and the relevant government organisations, including active stakeholder participation and gender mainstreaming, increases the chances for successful implementation in policy and practice.

Use of the information and knowledge generated by the project will be to some extent for further research, but mainly for exploitation. The core exploitable project result is the System of Participatory Information, Decision support, and Expert knowledge for irrigation and River basin water management (SPIDER) and its Italian counterpart Irrisat, and the FATIMA services provided around them. These are essentially irrigation and fertilization scheduling services, providing weekly maps of predicted crop water requirements and maps of nutrient requirements over the growing season (in forecasting and nowcasting mode).

The development of the webGIS and the FATIMA Services in each pilot area has been driven by the needs and perceptions of the users. At all project stages, it has been and will be a joint venture of the project team composed of selected key stakeholders, information service providers, and research groups. An operational version has been implemented all pilot areas and a clear roadmap for its sustainable maintenance beyond the project end has been developed all pilot areas. The details of this implementation depend on the local situation and will continue to be worked out jointly on a case-to-case basis.
Some of the tools and services developed in FATIMA have already been put on the market successfully (essentially by UCLM-spinoff AgriSat Iberia and consortium partner Ariespace).